Ship went down off Lebanon on Dec. 17th 2009.
BEIRUT: Rescue operations were under way on Thursday night after a merchant ship carrying more than 80 people capsized in waters off the coast of Tripoli as storms battered the eastern Mediterranean.
Nine Lebanese Army vessels, including a medical team, were dispatched to the scene after the Panamanian-flagged ship Danny Two overturned over 17 kilometers offshore from the northern port, officials said.
The maritime unit of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) sent three vessels after a distress signal was received by Lebanese naval forces at around 7:30 p.m.
“The Maritime Task Force (MTF) dispatched three ships, one Italian and two German, to the area where the LAF Navy told us the distress signal had been received,” UNIFIL Deputy Spokesman Andrea Tenenti told The Daily Star.
“We dispatched the ships immediately,” he said. “They have begun rescue operations” in conjunction with the Lebanese Navy, Tenenti added.
A port official in Tripoli said that 90 minutes after the accident at least 20 sailors had been rescued, 16 of them by a Syrian ship that was in the area.
MTF vessels took several hours to reach the scene, battling choppy seas as the storms enveloping Lebanon showed no signs of abating. Tenenti said the rescue process was hampered by the adverse weather, with helicopters normally used in maritime retrieval operations proving inoperable due to gale-force winds.
There was confusion over the exact owner of the ship and its final destination but preliminary reports suggested the vessel was carrying a cargo of cattle.
Both Tenenti and a port official in Tripoli had said the ship was transporting livestock. “The boat that sank seems to be a merchant vessel with around 83 people on board,” said Tenenti.
Ambulances were seen rushing out of Tripoli’s port area to nearby hospitals.
The port official said many of the stricken ship’s crew members were from the Philippines and Pakistan. There were also at least one Lebanese and one Syrian on board, the official added.
The vessel is the second ship to sink in Lebanese coastal waters in the space of a week, after the Sala II, a Togolese-flagged freighter which got into trouble around 70 kilometers off the coast of Tyre late last Friday. – With AFP